New Delhi: As a battle rages on among ex-Servicemen on social media over the usage of the word ‘mercenary’ for British Indian Army soldiers, former Union minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has highlighted the legacy of soldiering in his family, dating back to World War I.
In a quote-tweet late Saturday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Olympic silver medallist in double trap shooting expressed pride in his great-grandfather Subedar Sadul Singh, who fought in the Battle of Suez Canal and was a prisoner of war “for 10 years”. The Subedar was awarded the Indian Distinguished Service Medal (IDSM), as pointed out by the handle @IndiaHistorypic.
“I am so proud of him. I have many things in common with him… being a marksman, playing musical instrument… I am the 4th generation soldier in my family that too in the same Regiment, The Grenadiers. Married to a fauji & she is daughter of a fauji,” Rathore said in a tweet, thanking the handle for sharing the photo of his great-grandfather.
Thank you @IndiaHistorypic .. I am so proud of him. I have many things in common with him… being a marksman, playing musical instrument..I am the 4th generation soldier in my family that too in the same Regiment, The Grenadiers. Married to a fauji & she is daughter of a fauji 😀 https://t.co/vlkvrzp3Jz
— RajyavardhanRathore (@Ra_THORe) January 22, 2022
The ‘mercenary’ controversy
Rathore’s comment came at a time when several ex-Servicemen have drawn battle lines over the word ‘mercenary’ being used for soldiers who fought during World War I and World War II under the British Indian Army.
In a short ceremony Friday, a part of the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame at India Gate was taken and merged with the flame at the National War Memorial, a stone’s throw away from India Gate.
According to the government, the move was carried out because India Gate is “a symbol of our colonial past”.
As the issue snowballed into a political row, various sections of society expressed their views on it, including armed forces veterans.
Maj. Gen. G.D. Bakshi (retd) and Col. D.P.K. Pillai (retd, Shaurya Chakra awardee) made controversial statements to justify the move.
I heard General Bakshi saying before 1947, our soldiers were mercenaries. I can't say anything to that, but I am ashamed: @LtColAnilDuhoon
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) January 21, 2022
“It is coming of age of India. A flame lit in a memorial for World War 1 honoured the mercenaries who fought for the British in a war that didn’t mean anything for colonised India. The NWM for independent India’s wars is the appropriate place for an eternal flame to honour Indians,” said Col. Pillai (retd) in a now-deleted tweet. He later apologised for offending people.
I am sorry my thoughts on the flame in a memorial made for world war 1 with Indian money for soldiers who were never honoured outside of India ignored in all western Militray history has offended people
My grandfather also was a soldier in British Indian army and I respect him
— Col DPK Pillay,Shaurya Chakra,PhD (Retd) (@dpkpillay12) January 21, 2022
Others like former Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the decision as “eternal flame at India Gate is part of India’s psyche and memories of Amar Jawan Jyoti are indelible”.
Sir, the eternal flame at #IndiaGate is part of India's psyche. You, I & r generation grew up saluting our brave jawans there. While NationalWarMemorial is great, the memories of #AmarJawanJyoti are indelible.
Request rescind decision.
RT if u agree
— Manmohan Bahadur (@BahadurManmohan) January 21, 2022
President of Ex-Servicemen Grievances Cell Lt Col. S.S. Sohi (retd) called it a shame that Indian soldiers who died on foreign soil while fighting in the world wars are revered and honoured by those countries but are denigrated in their own country.
“These politicians can have a dozen memorials to their dead leaders in the capital where they get cremated and give them fancy names. But they get pain in their stomachs to see two memorials to soldiers side by side. Why should the flame be extinguished? It is preposterous,” he reportedly said.
Yet another section of veterans lauded the government’s decision to merge the ‘eternal flame’.
Lt Gen. Satish Dua (retd), former chief of the Integrated Defence Staff, called it a needless controversy, seeking to highlight that the flame is not being “extinguished”.
A needless controversey is being created.
The flame of Amar Jawan Jyoti is being merged with that of National War Memorial;it is not being extinguished.
NWM is the designated war memorial at National level to pay homage all Indias Bravehearts, past present or future.
Hear my take https://t.co/n4Zdu7VpED
— Lt Gen Satish Dua🇮🇳 (@TheSatishDua) January 21, 2022
Eternal flame and India Gate
Amar Jawan Jyoti was placed underneath the India Gate as a tribute to the nation’s soldiers. It was established in 1972 to mark India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, and was inaugurated by then-PM Indira Gandhi.
India Gate, which was built by the British Indian regime, was earlier known as the All India War Memorial. It was erected in 1931 as a memorial to around 90,000 Indian soldiers of the British Indian Army, who had died in World War I and the Afghan wars, among others.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)